Panfish Paradise Found

Sometimes fishing the spot on the spot finds the largest concentration of fish.

Hitting the right combination of location and presentation can lead to a great day on the water—or ice. Such was the case for me recently on a large natural lake in north-central Minnesota, while on a panfish outing with Lindy Fishing Tackle’s Jon Thelen and Jeff Sundin, along with longtime North American Fisherman writer Jeff Samsel.

We hit the ice in mid-morning, and trucked out to one of Sundin’s favorite winter crappie haunts—a subtle depression on an otherwise featureless offshore flat. “The bottom drops to about 20 feet in one relatively small area, and the crappies gravitate toward the slightly deeper water,” he explains.

Indeed, it didn’t take long after Sundin punched a few holes in the ice for Samsel to connect with our first crappie, and the spot yielded slab-sized fish one after another well into late afternoon. But, if we strayed more than 20 yards from our hotspot, the action came to a standstill.

Adding to ambiance, we were blessed with a welcome dose of sunshine, along with relatively balmy air temps hovering around 10 degrees, with little wind—all of which engendered comfortable fishing without hunkering in a shelter.

Top tactics trended toward horizontal-hanging lures; my hottest sleight of hand was Lindy’s venerable Slick Jig tipped with a Watsit Grub, bobbed and nodded up and down just above the level at which fish were marked on sonar. Many fish idled up and inhaled the jig on the spot. Those that hesitated could often be converted from lookers into strikers if I slowly raised the jig away from them. Other top presentations included a Lindy Foo Flyer and Watsit combo, along with a Frostee Jigging Spoon tipped with a trio of waxworms.

While our success hinged on the slight bowl we affectionately dubbed the “Great Depression,” other crappie hotspots include any type of structure or cover that concentrates fish movement. It could be a pocket of open water in a weedbed, an inside turn on an outside weed edge, area of slight current—or even a current break in a river situation. The trick is taking the time to figure out your favorite lake’s spot on the spot, then dialing in the top tactics to take full advantage of it.

Here’s a fun ice-fishing crappie video shot on a Minnesota lake.


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